Are You a Heretic? part 4
Do Josephus' writings as a historian count as proof of Jesus' existence?Josephus was one of the first non-Christians to write about Jesus, in a passage known as the the "Testimonium Flavianum."
A Quick Background
Josephus was born around the time that Jesus supposedly died. When Josephus was about 40, he published his first work, a History of the Jewish War from A.D. 66-73. When translated to English (and by using the 'print preview' feature in my browser), it is over 300 pages long, and was split into eight "books".
His second work is the Antiquities of the Jews, in which contains the Testimonium Flavianum. Originally written in Greek, Englishman William Whiston's translation in 1737 is in wide use even today. The Antiquities contains twenty books, each between 25-45 (English) pages. As the copyright ran out long ago, we can find his entire text online, for example on Early Jewish Writings or Early Christian Writings, two site apparently run by the same person.
He also wrote a long autobiography and the relatively short On the Antiquities of the Jews. We know a lot about him, from his patrons to his three marriages.
Concerning the Evidence
Thanks to stardust1954, you can read about the debate as to the authenticity of Josephus' Testimonium Flavianum.
Let's say that Josephus DID write the truth as he saw it about Jesus. For grins, I'll compare this to contemporary times.
Let's say a tremendously long book is published by author Joe. In it, he states there was a person name Bob, assasinated around the time of his (Joe's) birth, and that people found Bob's speeches to be inspiring. Also suppose there happens to be a biography about Bob that his own family publishes. The biography makes Bob sound like a great guy, even given the factual errors it contains. Imagine that Joe is the first to mention Bob outside the families' book.
Would you believe that Bob was real?
To me, even if the disputed paragraph in Josephus turns out to have been written by him, it isn't really proof of a historical Jesus.
There is this feeling that over two thousand years ago, people were little more than cave-men scratching out an existence. But there is an astonishing amount of information we have on people during this time, like Julius Caesar (I linked to his Chronology) and here are biographies of six of his contemporaries: Titus Labienus - Cicero - Pompey - Theodosius of Bithynia - Catiline - Titus Pomponius Atticus.
I just found a good essay about the debate on religioustolerance.org.
To me, the bible contains factual errors on details of the life of someone named Jesus, and the first reference to him outside of the bible can't be called compelling. Believe if you want/need to, but I don't see it.